licensure and certification
to be licensed as a nurse practitioner, the candidate must first complete the education and training necessary to be a registered nurse (rn).
requirements for a registered nurse include an associate degree in nursing (adn), a bachelor of science degree in nursing (bsn), or completion of a diploma program, as well as direct patient care for acutely or chronically ill patients. associate degree in nursing programs
, which are offered by community and junior colleges, usually take 2-3 years. bsn programs are offered by colleges and universities and take 4-5 years and diploma programs are administered in hospitals and usually take 2-3 years. depending on the program attended, the candidate may fulfill some np requirements while completing the rn degree.
in most cases, professionals and employers in the field strongly recommend the bsn as a minimal requirement for nps, and some states require this. to become nps, most nurses with an adn or diploma enter a bachelor of science program. they may be able to find a staff nursing position and take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs to work toward a bsn.
once registered nurse status is attained, the candidate must complete a state-approved advanced training program that usually specializes in a field such as family practice, internal medicine, or women's health. the degree can be granted by any of the following:
a community college, which grants an associate in arts degree
a hospital-based program, which grants a 3-year diploma
a university, which grants a bachelor of science in nursing (bsn) degree
the variety of educational paths for nps is a result of the history of the field. in 1965, the profession of nurse practitioner was instituted and required a master's degree. in the late 1960s into the 1970s, predictions of a physician shortage increased funding and attendance in nurse practitioner programs. during the 1970s, the np requirements relaxed to include continuing education programs, which helped accommodate the demand for nps. currently, all three educational options to attain np status are valid.
after completing the education program, the candidate must be licensed by the state in which he or she plans to practice. the state boards of nursing regulate nurse practitioners and each state has its own licensing and certification criteria. in general, the criteria include completion of a nursing program and clinical experience. because state board requirements differ, nurse practitioners may have to fulfill additional requirements, such as certification by the american nurses credentialing center (ancc) or a specialty nursing organization. the license period varies by state; some require biennial relicensing, others require triennial.
after receiving state licensing, a nurse practitioner can apply for national certification from the ana or other professional nursing boards such as the american academy of nurse practitioners (aanp). some nps pursue certification in a specialty. several organizations oversee certification, including the following:
american association of critical-care nurses
board of certification for emergency nursing
national certification board of pediatric nurse practitioners and nurses
national certification corporation for the obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing specialties
oncology nursing certification corporation